Writing Woes: Re-Re-Outlining

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t done any writing posts for a while. It’s not that I haven’t been actively writing. On the contrary, I spent the entire month of September re-outlining my story after I found all the pain-points in my 1st draft (finished in July); and then writing a scene-by-scene outline for the upcoming 2nd draft. So yes, I’ve done a ton of work, and it mostly went very well. I should be writing a Writing Joys post instead, because I feel like planning went smoother than I expected.

But now that I finished the scene-by-scene outline, I realized that even after my first few bouts of re-outlining, my story is still a wild, unwieldy mess. There’s still too much going on, and the goals of many of the characters are not clear. I’m actually pretty glad I caught this before I went ahead and started writing out the scene-by-scene outline into an actual draft. I’d say, if I were to compare this to programming work, a scene-by-scene outline is like a proof of concept, and it was immensely helpful to me to see what worked and what didn’t.

So what am I doing now?

I’m trying to create more post-able material on my Tumblr blog; and by “post-able,” that pretty much means art. I can’t post my writing, after all. The Fun Fact Fridays I started some months back have fallen so far off the back-burner I don’t know if I will re-start it (made more unfortunate because I think I only did it for 4 weeks). Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of success creating original art recently, because my heart just isn’t into it. I have a list of artwork that I keep for times like this, but I tried striking one off the list, and I was just incredibly bored and impatient while drawing it. So I stopped yesterday, thinking I’m probably better off doing other things.

Now, I’m focusing on research and re-outlining once again to address the problems I saw on my scene-by-scene outline. Some books I’m currently reading:

2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron is a writing book that gives advice on how to increase your word count for every writing session you take. Rachel Aaron is one of my favourite authors (her Legend of Eli Monpress series is one of my absolute faves); not only is she traditionally published, she is also independently published. Like she says in the book, if she doesn’t write, she doesn’t eat. And while I do have a day job, or a primary career that I don’t plan to quite any time soon (or ever for that matter), I am still interested in increasing my writing pace. Actually, this is probably the main reason. Because I have another job, I don’t actually get a lot of writing time; and because I don’t want to be writing a single novel for the next 15 years, I want to be more efficient every time I sit down for an hour after I come home from work.

Paths of Origins is a rare-book about Island Southeast Asian artifacts, from jewellery to weapons textiles. It focuses on the Philippines and Indonesian archipelago, which means this book is a gold mine for me. I swear, every cent I paid for this book is more than worth it, even though it was kind of expensive since it’s rare. The high-resolution pictures are an incredibly valuable resource for me, my story and my artwork. The history in this book is amazing, and I have a firm belief that history books in the Philippines should look to this one on how to talk about pre-colonial history. In the ’90s when I was studying in the Philippines, I was still learning about the three-wave migration theory, which apparently was disproven by William Henry Scott and many other historians and archeologists in the 70s. 20 years later, my school was still feeding us outdated information. I hope that new learnings like the ones found in this book would eventually find their way to schools.

The Art of War is a book I saw referenced by Marie Rutkoski in her Winner’s trilogy. I looked it up and decided to read it, because there are a lot of militaristic angles to my story as well, and I thought it’s better I was educated about it. And it really is. After reading only the first 4 chapters, I’ve realized that there are some glaring plot holes in my story. So there you go. The more you know.

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September 2017 Reads

Wow, I think I made a reading record last month. 6 books! I’m notorious for being a slow reader, but I don’t know what I happened… I blew through 4 large books and 2 smaller ones.

7908762Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

This book got me out of my reading slump. It’s about a noble girl who lived most of her life in exile, until her father died and she was brought back to court life. As someone who is an elemental mage, she holds a lot of power and soon she finds herself embroiled in intrigue.

I love how character-centric this was. Even though much of the plot isn’t action-oriented, I was always wondering what’s going to happen to Zoe next. Zoe was a likeable character, though I think for a character-oriented book, it kind of lacked a character arc. I don’t think Zoe became a better person in any way, even though people warned her that her power might harm others. She was always reckless with it, and there was a distinct lack of repercussions after her destructiveness in the climax. If anything, her self-assuredness and her time away from court enabled her to not care about things some people have to just to survive in a place crawling with intrigue. And then she shames them for caring. I mean, they weren’t very nice people either, so maybe they deserve it, but this is definitely one of “those” books where an outsider girl is not like those “other” girls, you know what I mean?

Also, one of the plot twists that I was afraid of happening happened in the last 5 pages of the book, which was… erm, a let down. So overall, I enjoyed this book lots except for a few parts, and thank it very much for pulling me out of my reading slump.

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Brown Skin, White Minds by E.J.R. David

This is another research book I read to help me with my original project. It’s a highly recommended item for Filipino research, but I didn’t pick it up for the longest time because my focus is on precolonial Philippines, whereas this looks at postcolonial. Anyway, here’s my review from Goodreads:

I decided to pick up this book because I thought that although my project is on precolonial peoples, my audience is not. It’s important for me to know what issues are relevant in today’s postcolonial society, so that I can at least be sensitive about it in my project.

This book gave me a lot of reassurance that my experience is not by any means a singularity. Apparently they’re very prevalent. I think this is where the book shines: it shows psychological studies on colonial mentality and also paves a way on how to deal with it. I especially liked the chapter where the empirical studies were shown. Unfortunately there was a chapter or two on theoretical postulation that I think would have benefited greatly from some empirical data; as it is, those chapters had a lot of “may cause” or “might influence” wordings that don’t have a lot of data to back the theories. This book also frequently reads like a school paper, which might be understandable, seeing that the author is a scholar. But the wordings tend to be repetitive and paragraphs seem to say the same things over and over. I think the author was overly cautious that something might be taken out of context.

18270942Why We Fail by Victor Lombardi

Okay, this one is for school. We were asked to review a business book, and this was one of the few books that caught my interest in the pre-selected list.

This book looks at products that failed due to terrible user experience. Overall, I found the book to be quite bloggish. Each of the case studies was interesting in and of itself, but I was expecting a little more from a book compilation. I was hoping for some cohesive and unified lesson that could be applied to the next business venture, but there wasn’t really anything like that. Some things that caused the failure of one product would be the cause of success for another. So it doesn’t really leave you with any kind of applicable knowledge. The only thing I liked was the suggestion of using the scientific method.

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The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

I rarely ever read romance, and this is one of the few times that I did. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

This is one of the rare times I make a foray into the romance genre. While I’ve read a few romance books before, I’ve mostly stayed away for two, perhaps petty, reasons. A) I don’t like large age gaps, which seems to be the staple of the genre, and B) to say that I dislike rakes is a gross understatement. I picked up this book because miraculously it has neither. I actually saw the book recommended on a Tumblr post about romance unicorns.

And what a book it was! I can only compare to the handful of romance books I’ve read previously, but this one is a lot more nuanced and complex than the others. Now don’t get me wrong. I love escapism and brain candy as much as any other person — my favourite genre does happen to be fantasy, after all. But there are only so many impossibilities that an illusion can uphold before the entire thing loses its magic, even moreso when it’s not supposed to be fantasy.

This book has so many threads in it that were all equally fascinating. Even the romance seemed to take a step back to other themes like family, wealth and ambition. The story of Minnie’s past was honestly so unique and creative, now I’m wanting an adventure book based on a twelve-year-old prodigy.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Ah, I love fantasy books like this! I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now but I’ve just been swarmed with books on my TBR.

Kell Maresh is an Antari, a person who can travel between different worlds. One day he was framed to smuggle in a powerful object into his world. Piggybacking on his travels is petty thief Lila Bard. Together, they try to prevent the destruction that the smuggled object will cause.

This is a fun adventure book, and I love the two main protagonists. I’m still not too keen on the perfect prince, but we’ll see if I get to know him better in the following books. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it was too short! Good thing there’s 2 more books in the series, which I’m looking forward to reading.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ah, this is one of those books that everybody has been talking about but I wasn’t really interested in picking up until two of my friends told me it is really good. Needless to say it deserves all the hype it got, because man, this is a stellar example of great fantasy writing.

Kaz and his band of thieves are hired to retrieve a prisoner from one of the toughest prisons for a hefty price. However, everyone’s got baggage, and they just might kill each other. Heh. Bad plot summary, because the plot itself is too smart for a summary.

August Artwork

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After writing every day during Camp NaNoWriMo in July, I really took the time to focus on art in August. Considering that it usually takes me 2 weeks to make a complete artwork, I think having finished four is good turnout for me. It’s a mix of fanart for The Queen’s Thief series as well as my original project.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

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I know it might come as a surprise to many people when I confess that this is the first time I’m reading Harry Potter. HP is such a staple in children’s fantasy, which is one of my favourite genres (probably the most). But the way circumstances would have it, I only picked up the series a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll keep this review brief, because I think everyone by now is familiar with the series.

Rating: 5/5

Needless to say, I enjoyed it. It was a lot more whimsical that I thought it would be. I did see 6 out of 8 movies, and I had the impression the books would be as dark and mysterious as the movies made the story seem to be. But I think it’s a lot more like Diana Wynne Jones’s books than anything. It’s got a very endearing quality to it, and I’m not surprised at all why so many people fell in love with the book.

I found the characters to be slightly different in the book than they were in the movies. I felt as if the movie got one dimension of their characterization right, but the book gave such great nuances that the movies didn’t have time to show off. Harry, for example, was a lot sassier than he was in the movies. Ron was a lot funnier, although I do remember Rupert Grint making me laugh hysterically when I watched the films as a kid. Hermione was so intense; she was really milking the smarty-pants stereotype so hard, I couldn’t even find her annoying for it. And Neville! Whoa, I was surprised how much screen time Neville got. He was always that outlying character in the movies, but here, the gang really seemed more like a quad than a trio. I have a feeling I’m going to really love Neville even more in the following books.

Overall, I feel like I understood the story better now. As a kid, I never quite knew what was going on — only that there were things going on with Harry and he needed to fix them, hehe.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

19385917Hey everyone! I’m back with another book review. This time, I will be reviewing an adult fantasy that one of my favourite series, The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron, has frequently been compared to: The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Overview

Locke Lamora and his band of thieves, called The Gentlemen Bastards, launch a complex plot to steal half the fortune of one of the barons in the City of Camorri. However, they become embroiled in the bigger, more dangerous plots of a mysterious man named the Grey King.

Rating: 4.5 / 5
Warnings: cursing (high), gore (high), sexual content (medium)

My Thoughts

I think this is the first book I’ve read that didn’t get a full score because some things were lacking, but because they were excessive. So it’s safe to say that this book has everything I like in books: dynamic, empathetic characters; complex plots; and interesting world-building. It really does have everything. Continue reading “The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch”

That Manifesto Thing

Last week someone at work brought to my attention the Google Manifesto shenanigan over the previous weekend. As a woman in tech, I hear about things like this all the time, but I’m too caught up with other activities to respond to these things publicly. I try to be a positive person, so instead of dwelling on all the lame comments that peppered social media, I’m just going to focus on those who have rebutted the manifesto with much better articulation that I could ever have.

A Brief History of Women in Computing: What I love about this article is that it pointed out what I felt was the biggest problem in the Google Manfiesto. The manifesto presented several biological research and used it to try to justify why women could be less suited for computing. However, as this article points out, the jump was too big. The biological components pointed out may explain certain traits, but not how those traits exactly cause an interest (or lack thereof) in computing specifically. As it is, the manifesto (yes I read it) sounded like it was motivated by the author’s deeply held stereotypes about women and he tried to back up his beliefs retroactively. Additionally, the manifesto does not address how modern computing environments were shaped by men and optimized for their own behaviour. Because let’s face it: a profession’s environment affects its workers, while workers in turn affect the environment. The relationship is symbiotic. Several of the manifesto’s points pertain more to computing environments rather than the actual task. For example, it said that computing is a high-stress profession requiring less empathy and social interactivity. Is it possible that women, with their different biology, could thrive in a different, yet equally productive, computing environment? I don’t know, and I think it would be more productive to conduct research on it than to rely on stereotypes to make leaps in conclusion.

So, About this Googler’s Manifesto: What I like about this article is his explanation about how engineering isn’t an isolated endeavour. This was a misconception I had when I was younger, and it’s actually something that attracted me to the field, because I like doing solo work. I’ve grown out of that misconception though, and I love computer science enough to also appreciate its collaborative and social aspect.

Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd: This article expands a little bit more on the misconception of engineering as a solo task. What’s even more important is that it points out one of the things that really annoy me in the Artificial Intelligence / Deep Learning sector today: engineers seem to be developing tools for things that I don’t think many people will use. Take for example, machines that beat other players in a very particular game. What is this doing for the world at large? For people who are not gamers? For people from low-income households or third-world countries? What is this doing for the environment, for our healths, for improving society in general? As a computer scientist, making a positive impact in the world is my life goal, and it can be puzzling to hear that advancements in my chosen concentration mostly serve such a tiny niche. Every week you hear about that new deep neural net that can now replace a writer or an artist, but how about helping marginalized creators reach the audience who want to read their work? When did voices of machines become more important than the voices of humans? Especially when you know that these machines have been trained on a very particular subset of work that are most likely mainstream already. This article explains a little bit more on why empathy might be the key to averting this trend.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. Like I said, I don’t like to dwell on this kind of situations. If you have any article you’d like to share, let me know. Or if you have thoughts about computer science or AI and what you think they can do for society, let me know too!